By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
ON FRIDAY NIGHT, OCTOBER 26, following the performance of Frank Condon and Ron Sossi’s docudrama, The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles, many in the cast were milling about at an opening-night reception for a comedy playing in the same building. Darius Ever Truly had just finished playing the co-defendant Bobby Seale in the docudrama, about eight “radicals” accused of conspiring to incite the bloody riot that engulfed the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. At the reception, Truly asked his colleagues and theater staff to join him at a Halloween party 17 blocks south on Bentley Avenue, near the junction of Sepulveda and Venice boulevards.
Truly asked house manager Tiffany Simms if she would go, but she had a bad feeling about the late-night party. “Something just said, ‘No, don’t go,’ ” Simms told the L.A. Weekly. Hours earlier, Simms had met Truly’s cousin, a young woman who had come to see the play. She recalls how Truly’s cousin was the only person to accompany him to the party.
Truly was never seen alive again by his colleagues. Yet nobody connected to the theater had any inkling of the violent tragedy that had befallen him until shortly before Saturday’s performance, when Truly failed to show up and the stage manager and two cast members couldn’t reach him.
He was so reliable and so invested in his Bobby Seale role that his failure to at least call in sick created concern among the theater management. As time wore on, their concern turned to dread. Though the stage manager began contacting local hospitals, nobody thought they should be contacting the coroner instead. According to the theater’s artistic director, Sossi, the show was performed on Saturday night with an understudy playing Seale, script in hand.
On Sunday, cast members were horrified to find several MySpace pages containing the entry “Darius Ever Truly: RIP.” The devastating news was confirmed by the LAPD Media Relations Web site, which reported that Truly and his cousin were both stabbed on Saturday at 3:20 a.m. in the 3700 block of Bentley Avenue between Culver City and Mar Vista. Truly’s cousin had been hospitalized and then released in stable condition. Officials say partygoers found Truly collapsed and not breathing on the sidewalk, bleeding from chest wounds. According to the LAPD’s homicide posting, a man in dark clothes was seen fleeing south on Bentley; “apparently after an argument with the victims,” adds a CBS2 news report.
IT WAS LESS THAN AN HOUR before the scheduled 2 p.m. Sunday matinee performance that the cast of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial learned of the tragedy. Director Condon recalls, “I quickly got everyone in a circle and tried to calm people down, but there were a couple of actors who were so beside themselves they couldn’t go on. We had to cancel that performance. It was like a bomb had gone off: 40 people, many sobbing, some on the floor. It looked like a war zone without the blood.”
The play chronicles the 1969 kangaroo-court convictions of the Chicago Eight, young co-defendants challenging the war in Vietnam. They included Tom Hayden, co-founder of the Students for a Democratic Society, who went on to serve in the California Legislature; Yippie counterculture leader Jerry Rubin, who later became a stockbroker; and Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. Neither Seale nor the other defendants advocated the violence that rocked the 1968 Democratic Convention. The prosecutors were accused of being politically motivated, and the convictions of what would later become the Chicago Seven were later overturned.
Seale, however, did believe that violence against blacks should be met with violence. Actor John Pollono, who plays Hayden, says Truly was deeply invested in Seale’s character. “We were talking about how relevant the play is today — but that he saw hope, the fact that we could talk about racism showed how far things had gone,” says Pollono. “And it showed that the younger generations were not so racist — so every generation is getting better.”
The cast has speculated that his killer may have been a gang member, but police have not confirmed that. Truly’s cousin, whose identity police are withholding, visited the theater to explain what had happened that horrible night — her arm in a sling. A theater staff member says she told them Truly “had died trying to save my life.”
Informed by the L.A. Weekly that Truly’s cousin credits him with saving her life, LAPD homicide Detective Mike DePasquale scoffed in frustration, saying that when detectives questioned her, she suddenly came down with amnesia: “We find her covered in blood, and she tells us she never saw or heard anything.” Another witness has been just as uncooperative. Many theater people have speculated that the two witnesses fear retribution by gangs who operate in Culver City and Mar Vista.
AFTER LEAVING MEMPHIS to study theater at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, Truly came to Los Angeles in early 2006. His father, Larry Truly, says that as a child, his son was an avid reader with a kind, outgoing disposition — “a good kid, he never got into trouble, outside of the usual ways kids get into trouble.”
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